Let’s start the year off with a commitment to using two powerful tools more often: love and light. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a great service leader for us to learn from and follow in this direction {Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day}. In working a puzzle the other night, I noticed a correlation between puzzle building and service leadership.

For those of us who enjoy a good 500, 750 or, in this case, a 1000 piece puzzle every so often, we know there needs to be plenty of light. And when working with one or two other people, it really helps to have love in the environment, as well. As is in the case of service leadership, light shone onto a follower by a leader allows the follower to shine and be noticed in the ways they wish to be seen. As a complementary force, love is necessary to create presence and patience with one another.

We all know the feeling when you are working toward the goal of completing a puzzle and can’t seem to find those pieces that look so obvious around the table, and when the lighting is poor, it’s even more difficult. Similarly, without lightness in leadership, it is hard to locate the pieces we are seeking to build a bigger goal or picture.

Now assume that the lighting is just fine until someone stands in the way of the light and doesn’t realize or care they are blocking this valuable resource. How does this dynamic play out? Does the light-blocker eventually realize they are making it difficult for the seeker of the puzzle pieces, and does the person being blocked have the courage and confidence to say something? What about love in this same scenario? If we are BEing patient and present, we will naturally be more aware of our surroundings and can then see through self-awareness when we are blocking others’ light or chance to shine and find the pieces necessary to complete the greater goal.

To serve first and lead second will create scenarios where those who follow you will feel your authentic love and desire to serve as you lead. Leadership is a wonderful way to move about the world and many are good leaders. What I suggest is to add the powerful element of service to your leadership and to note the effect on your relationships as you add more love and more light. Notice that service leadership is a positive motivator; it inspires instead of intimidates. I promise you will always get better results this way.

I am grateful for those extraordinary leaders who have come before. In the words of one of the most powerful leaders of our time, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.